Kashmir is on fire. The Kashmiri people are living out what may well be the worst nightmare in their history. In the last 75 days almost 70 young men and school going children have lost their lives to police bullets. Hundreds more, women, children and security personnel, are grievously injured. Those injured are not militants or cross border terrorists — just ordinary young men aspiring to live an ordinary life of dignity. All they have done to deserve the ferocity of the state’s coercive might is to protest against the killing of their innocent brethren and to express their rage for having to live under conditions of unending, relentless fear.
What began as a simple protest against the killing by the state police of an innocent schoolboy, Tufail Mattoo, and an expression of disenchantment with a regime which had failed to live up to the hopes placed on it by the people just 18 months ago, has now turned into an overwhelming anti India upsurge because of the indifference of the centre and its desire to defend and endorse a regime marked by insensitivity, aloofness and arrogance.
What should have been dealt with as a normal, legitimate expression of popular discontent has through sheer political and administrative mismanagement given new life to the call for separation from India. What the separatists and ISI trained terrorists failed to achieve in 20 years has been delivered to them on a platter by 20 months of misrule. The only face of the Indian State now visible to the Kashmiri people is one of repression, violence and brutality. The cry for ‘Azadi ‘, as yet a plaintive appeal for freedom from this life of fear, may rapidly burgeon into an irretrievable movement for secession. The situation is worse than it has been ever before, and worse than in any other part of the country, including those areas that harbour secessionist desires. We ignore it at great peril.
In such an explosive situation, the Kashmiri people’s sense of isolation worsens the problem. There is a widespread perception that no one else in India seems to care about the living hell they face everyday — a life dominated by guns and bullets, and the graveyard. There are no protest marches or candlelight vigils for them. They feel they are alone in their suffering and that Indian democracy or Indian Civil society does not care to offer to them any gesture of support or solace.
It is time that we, as citizens of India, show that we stand by the people of Jammu and Kashmir in their hour of grief; that they are an inseparable part of the unique tapestry of diversity and plurality that is India, and that ‘We Care’. We need to demonstrate visibly that citizen-to-citizen, people to people, we want to understand what is going through their hearts and minds, create a conducive and convivial environment for them to communicate their feelings. Our failure to build bridges of understanding will only lead to further communalisation, brutalisation and the militarisation of state and civil society in Jammu and Kashmir.
As a first step we intend taking a large delegation to the Chairperson UPA, Smt. Sonia Gandhi and submit a Memorandum to her to urge her to stop this dangerous political drift, which has completely alienated the people of Jammu and Kashmir and brought the situation to this tragic pass.
Date: Wednesday, September1, 2010
Time for congregation: 2 p.m.
Venue: Outside Congress Party Office, 24 Akbar Road, New Delhi
Please join us at sharp 2 p.m. on September 1, 2010
Madhu Purnima Kishwar
Major General Lakhwinder Singh (Retd)
Imtiaz Ahmed Bazaz
Manushi-Citizens First Forum